Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How To Handle Bizarre Behavior

Let's take a break from discussing scientific writing to consider some other concerns that PIs occasionally encounter and must respond to.

Today, I came across the following question in an e-zine for Principal Investigators:

One of my lab technicians has begun talking to himself and has become very argumentative. Several of my staff have confided they are worried he is developing a mental disorder--and thus we could be heading for some episode of "workplace violence". As PI and his supervisor, may I legally interview him about these personality changes? Should I? If I refer the matter to our institute's Human Resources department, could the technician accuse me of "defamation of character"? Do I have any duty to do something or anything?

If you are a PI, how would you handle this?  If you are a technician, post-doc, or student working in a lab with such a person, what would you do, if anything?  What would you want the PI and/or HR do?


Zen said...

This is not a matter for Human Resources; this is a matter for counseling professionals. Most decent sized institutions should probably have some sort of counseling center that someone can be referred to.

Anonymous said...

This person's supervisor has a resposibility to see that the situation is addressed. If something bad happens and the supervisor had failed to deal with it (either personally or by reporting to HR), then they could be fired or sued later.